BMC Team Machine SLR02 ReviewPosted by Warren Rossiter | 05.30.2014
"Magnificent race machine that's equally suited to long hours in the saddle"
BMC’s SLR02 version of the all new Team Machine takes its design from the flagship model as ridden by the likes of Cadel Evans, Tejay van Garderen and Philippe Gilbert. The SLR01 was created because these riders had asked for a bike that encompassed BMC’s lightweight and stiffness but in a package that was significantly more comfortable than the previous model.
While the SLR01 weighs in at a scant 790g for the frame, the SLR02 has had to compromise to become more affordable. The compromise isn’t quite as great as you’d think – the switch from the all-carbon front and rear dropouts and a non-proprietary seatpost are the only changes. That means the SLR02 frame tips the scales at a still lightweight 950g, and that adds up to a bike with middle ground components that still weighs in at an impressive 8.06kg in a large 57cm size.
HIGHS: Stunning ride quality, frantically fast with balanced comfort
LOWS: Million-dollar frame means 100-dollar wheels
The SLR was designed using BMC’s latest computing power and it took more than 34,000 iterations before the team arrived at what is a very advanced and handsome looking frame. Up front the angular tapered head tube flows into a massive down tube and large volume but quickly tapering top tube.
At the bottom bracket things get interesting. The BB shell is hugely offset in relation to the down tube, and the seat tube is also shaped and curved enhancing the offset. Now Pinarello came up with the proven concept of an asymmetric back end that balances the forces through pedalling in the rear triangle. BMC’s clever touch is that the back end is balanced in its shape and design; it’s asymmetric at the bottom bracket. The down tube meets biased towards the non drive side and the seat tube tapers in a constant curve towards the same. This means plenty of clearance around the chainset and a straight chain line while maintaining all the rigidity needed.
The R3 really feels held back because of the R500s, mainly owing to its featherweight chassis, but somehow the BMC copes much better with the extra mass. To get the best out of this exceptional frameset it really does deserve better wheels – there is no getting around that – but we're so smitten with how good the SLR02 is that we just might be able to live with it.
While the SLR02 has a generally impressive specification – we love the inclusion of a Fi'zi:k saddle, quality Continetal rubber and impressive 3T cockpit – it does suffer a little in the wheel department. Much like the impressive Cervélo R3, the SLR02 is hampered by its budget rolling stock. As we’ve already said, the R501 (though the graphics say R500) Shimano wheels are legendary for their long wear and strength, but there's no getting around the fact that they tip the scales on the heavy side.
BMC obviously knows its market. While the SLR02 is most definitely shaped like a race bike, the manufacturer has specified its parts very much for the sportive rider. The drivetrain and brakes are all from Shimano’s 105 group and as expected all perform to a great standard; also included are a 50/34 compact chainset and an 11-32 cassette. Out and out racers may sneer at the easy-gear choice, but when you're deep into a long, long ride and a big ascent lies ahead you’ll welcome the chance to drop into the 32 sprocket with its low, low gear that’ll suit the steepest of climbs.
In the comfort stakes the BMC scores impressively well for an out and out race bike. Up front the fork starts broad and deep at the crown, maintaining the oversized design of the tapered head tube, then becomes very slender on its path to the drop outs. Over coarse bumpy surfaces it tracks perfectly and fatigue-giving high-frequency vibrations are a thing of the past. Out back the SLR02 may lack the 01’s design specific seatpost, but BMC has included its own take on a carbon comfort post. So, while the tight rear end makes the bike very efficient, the clever post kills noise from bumpy roads easily. The geometry of the bike is all very much orientated towards racing. But just as the brilliant new Cannondale Synapse and 2013 champion Giant Defy are sportive-shaped bikes that are aggressive enough to race, the SLR02 is a race bike that’s amply comfortable for very long days in the saddle.
The SLR02 looks completely unique against the competition; the thoroughly futuristic frame design sets it apart. Thankfully its brilliant looks are backed up with a truly impressive ride. The Team Machine is an incredibly willing bike when it comes to acceleration. Pump on the pedals and it positively pulses forward. The head angle is aggressive at 72.5 and the seat angle half a degree from the accepted for a race bike at 73.5, resulting in a bike that’s thrillingly quick to turn. The wheelbase on our 57cm test bike is just shy of a metre – long enough to add stability but not so short as to become a handful.
BMC has also been clever with the frame's appointments – in its 105 guise the drivetrain's cable routing is all external, and thats something you and your local bike shop mechanic will welcome when it comes to maintenance. If down the line you want to switch to an electronic drivetrain, then the frame is also designed around that, with all the external cable guides being removable if you want to convert the bike to wires rather than cables. It’s a clever touch that future-proofs this state of the art frame.
This article forms part of Cycling Plus magazine's Bike of the Year 2014 Awards.
Review by:Warren Rossiter